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    Doing JPIC in a Changing World

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    Charles Phukutaby Márcio Flávio Martins, cicm
    General Councilor


    “The Spirit of the Lord is on me because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free.” (Luke 4:18)

    The XVIth CICM General Chapter, like the previous General Chapter, considers Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation (JPIC) as one essential element of our missionary activity. In the spirit of the last General Chapter, I wish to develop my reflection on JPIC in a Changing World. In sum, I aim to discuss four points: JPIC begins at home, JPIC in the Bible, JPIC in the Social Teaching of the Church, and lastly, the importance of JPIC to Proclaiming the Gospel in a Changing World.

    JPIC begins at home.

    We often come across questions that are both intriguing and unsettling. For instance, how can we talk about justice and peace in other parts of the world when we are not developing respectful and peaceful relationships within our communities? Similarly, how can we express concern about the pollution of the oceans when we fail to segregate and dispose of waste and trash properly in our neighborhoods? How can we claim to care about the hole in the ozone layer when we do not practice the 3Rs (reduce, reuse, and recycle) in our communities? How can we participate in rallies for various causes if we do not treat our employees and collaborators justly and fairly? How can we serve migrants in ministry if we are not willing to live with confreres of other nationalities? Finally, how can we talk about justice if our attitudes are influenced by clericalism, abuse of power, and abusive relationships? We need to "walk the talk" to impact the world positively.

    As I reflect and write, I am reminded of some great confreres who dedicated themselves to the JPIC ministry: Raymond Bodson, a Belgian Missionary in the Philippines; Jan Hanssens, a Belgian Missionary in Haiti; and Daniel Orpilla, a Filipino Missionary in Brazil. These confreres have inspired me with their passion and commitment towards JPIC. Many other confreres have served and still serve in the ministry of JPIC, and it is impossible to mention them all here. However, by observing their JPIC ministry, I realized how particular and unique this ministry is, and only some have the heart and skills to embrace it fully and passionately. Nevertheless, JPIC is meant for everyone, as its foundation is in the Bible and the Church's Social Doctrine. Therefore, anyone can develop the necessary skills to promote JPIC, even through simple initiatives.

    As a community, we should prioritize practicing JPIC. We must begin by living it out in our daily lives. This can be achieved by performing small acts of kindness and nurturing relationships based on mutual respect. Our next step should be to participate in networks with different Church Organizations, NGOs, and individuals who are directly or indirectly involved in JPIC concerns.

    JPIC in the Bible

    The Old Testament puts us before the God of Creation. We are before a God who creates and cares for his creation. He expects us to develop a respectful relationship with the environment and one another. (Ex. 23:10-11, Lev. 25: 1-7, Lev 25: 7, Ex. 23: 4-5). In the Old Testament, we find the Prophets. They were brave people called and sent to proclaim the truth in God’s name. They were unafraid to join the oppressed in their plight for social justice against economic, political, and religious oppressors. Kings, religious leaders, and landowners did not intimidate the Prophets, who denounced all that was oppressing people. They also took the side of these people by encouraging them to stand for their rights and hope for a better and just society. (Is 1:10-17, Jer 7:1-7, Amos 5:11-15; 21-24, Mic 6:1-8).

    Throughout the New Testament, Jesus repeatedly demonstrated great compassion towards the oppressed, the abandoned, the persecuted, the poor, the foreigners, and minorities. For instance, on a Sabbath day, Jesus allowed His disciples to eat, showing that saving life is more important than following the law. Jesus also had a unique relationship with people transcending cultural, religious, gender, and social boundaries. His encounters with the Samaritans serve as a clear example of His unconditional love towards everyone. (Mark 2:23, Luke 4:18-19, Matthew 5:1-11, Matthew 6:3).

    Jesus' proclamation of the Kingdom of God is worth mentioning, particularly during times of great poverty and suffering. As the Messiah, he brought hope to people by proclaiming the Kingdom of God. Although his proclamation was full of eschatological content, he also spoke of a new social-economic-political reality where people could experience life in abundance. Jesus promised the fullness of life both here on earth and in eternity as he represented the "already" and the "not yet" of Salvation. In John 10:10, Jesus said, "I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance," while in Matthew 25:46, he said, "and these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal."

    JPIC and the Social Teaching of the Church

    During my theological studies, one of my teachers once said that the most unread Church documents are those related to the Social Teaching of the Church (STC). Although she had her reasons for saying this, I have observed that very few Catholics are interested in studying and practicing the Church's social teachings. By ignoring the STC, we miss the opportunity to be enriched and equipped with various documents that help us develop a prophetic and liberating missionary presence in the world. From Rerum Novarum (1891), the Encyclical of Pope Leo XIII on Capital and Labor, up to recent days, many Church documents have been published, each attempting to address concrete social realities faced by people around the world. The publication of these documents shows that the Universal Church is not indifferent to the abandoned and oppressed people worldwide. One of the most quoted documents of the Church is the Vatican II Gaudium et Spes, which says: "The joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the men of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted, these are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ." (GS 1).

    Over the past few years, Pope Francis has brought about significant changes in the Catholic Church, steering it towards a more prophetic and liberating presence in the world. His documents, namely Evangelii Gaudium (2013), Laudato Si (2015), and Fratelli Tutti (2020), are the three most important documents that highlight his concerns for justice, peace, and the integrity of creation. However, the impact of Pope Francis goes beyond his writings; his actions and preaching have had a profound effect on the Church and the world. His concern for the marginalized and the environment has made Justice, Peace, and the Integrity of Creation (JPIC) central to the Church's mission. Pope Francis has reinvigorated the Church's preferential option for the poor, and his desire for a renewed missionary Church is evident. For example, in Evangelii Gaudium, the word "poor" is mentioned 91 times, "peace" 58 times, and "justice" 37 times.

    Pope Francis’s teachings often are about justice, peace, love for one another, and care for creation. He invites humanity to convert, change lifestyle, be aware of consumerism, and combat global warming (LS 23). The Pope calls us to an ecological conversion and to improve our relationship with creation by becoming faithful stewards of God’s handiwork (LS 217); above all, the Pope calls us to be aware of the grave social sin in which the poor are the primary victims (LS 30).

    JPIC is a way to Proclaim the Gospel in a Changing World.

    The XVIth General Chapter had the theme of "Witnessing to the Gospel in a Changing World". The Congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (CICM) has been spreading the Gospel across the globe for over 160 years. We have been present in various contexts and times throughout human history. We have survived the Boxer's Revolution in China, several pandemics, and two world wars. However, we have not only survived but also persevered in proclaiming the Gospel during times of deep crisis. CICM has always been attentive to the signs of the time and has responded to the challenges posed to the Institute with a prophetic spirit.

    The mission of spreading the Gospel continues in different times and contexts. It is our duty to proclaim the Gospel efficiently and coherently without hesitation or fear. We are called upon to engage in various social realities that require our missionary, prophetic, and liberating presence. In this regard, we face several social challenges in this changing world where CICM has a prophetic role to play. These challenges include:

    • Caring for people living in poverty in urban, rural, and indigenous areas.
    • Caring for abandoned elderly and children.
    • Caring for the environment by promoting reforestation where necessary.
    • Caring for and upholding the dignity of women who have been battered, persecuted, or abandoned.
    • Caring for and promoting the dignity of homosexuals (LGBTQIA+).
    • Caring for migrants.
    • Caring for people suffering from depression and loneliness.
    • Providing food, clothing, and love to homeless and abandoned individuals.
    • Working towards reconciliation and dialogue among various ethnic groups.
    • Educating children, youth, and adults, particularly those from impoverished backgrounds.
    • Promoting ecological awareness, education, and waste segregation.
    • Promoting eco-spirituality and harmony with creation.
    • Promoting the Social Doctrine of the Church among the laity and within our community.
    • Promoting various organizations that aim to combat corruption.
    • Promoting the proper use of social media and combating fake news.
    • Combating all forms of racism.
    • Engaging in interreligious dialogue and ecumenism to promote peaceful and just coexistence of people from diverse faiths.

    The possible social realities are endless. It's important to modify this list based on the social context that we find ourselves in. Regardless of the society, we will encounter individuals who are struggling for various reasons. We cannot ignore these issues and pretend that everything is okay. The book of Revelation urges us to act: "I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I am about to spit you out of my mouth." (Rev 3:15-16).

    Concluding notes

    The JPIC ministry has the potential to significantly impact the lives of those who embrace it. It can become a way of living and carrying out a mission. The JPIC ministry is not limited to progressives or leftists. It is a ministry that is firmly grounded in the Bible and the teachings of the Church. For these and other reasons, the last General Chapter has once again emphasized JPIC as one of its concerns. The Chapter urges those directly involved in JPIC to continue their ministry with enthusiasm and dedication. Supporting our fellow members who are actively engaged with JPIC concerns, such as JPIC coordinators, is an invitation to all of us, especially those in leadership roles. As for all other members, the Chapter hopes for greater openness and attentiveness to the various social realities present in our respective mission areas and, above all, that we actively engage with them. Overcoming all forms of complacency, indifference, and selfishness that prevent us from participating in the JPIC ministry remains a challenge for many among us.

    To conclude, let us remember the words of Pope Francis on the occasion of the First World Day of the Poor, November 19, 2017. He said, "It is a scandal that there is still hunger and malnutrition in the world! It is not just a matter of reacting to immediate emergencies but facing together, at every level, a problem that challenges our personal and social consciousness to arrive at a just and lasting solution. Let no one be forced to leave their own land and cultural environment due to a lack of means of subsistence."         §


    Message for the CICM Japan Diamond Jubilee: Seventy-five Years of Evangelization and Perspectives for the Future

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    Charles Phukutaby Charles Phukuta, cicm
    Superior General


    Dear Confreres working in Japan and in the Province of Asia,

    Congratulations on reaching an extraordinary milestone - 75 years of dedicated missionary presence in Japan! This is an exceptional moment to reflect on the incredible journey you have undertaken, the lives you have touched, and the profound impact you have made in the Land of the Rising Sun. I am delighted to join all of you in thanking God for the 75th anniversary of the CICM presence in Japan. I truly wanted to be personally present at this special celebration. Still, I am obliged to attend the Assembly of the Union of Superiors General, which falls on the exact date of your celebration. I know our confrere André De Bleeker, General Archivist, will represent me validly.

    In 1946, Mgr. Paul Yoshigoro Taguchi, Bishop of Osaka, who got to know CICM in China and the Philippines during the war, asked the General Government to take over part of his diocese, namely, the greater part of the Hyogo Prefecture. In the whole region, there was only one small old church situated in Aioi. There were a few Christians living in Himeji and in the north of the prefecture. At that time, Japan was still recovering from the ravages of the Second World War and the horrific effects of the two atomic bombs dropped on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The mission would provide spiritual support and assistance to the Japanese people during these challenging times.

    The General Chapter of 1947 decided to accept the proposal of Bishop Taguchi. On May 8th, 1948, the founding fathers Jozef Jennes and Jozef Spae arrived in Yokohama and set foot on Japanese soil. Many more confreres will follow. With unflinching enthusiasm, Father Spae started his missionary engagement in Himeji and surroundings. Towards the end of 1949, 57 adults had already received baptism. Our CICM presence would grow over the years to spread to the dioceses of Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Tokyo, and more recently to Sendai in the north.

    Initially, the confreres who came to the fledgling mission of Japan were Belgian missionaries expelled from China. Later, young Belgian and Dutch confreres would be assigned. In the 1980s, Congolese and Filipino confreres were assigned to Japan, and today, our mission in Japan is an international community of Belgian, Congolese, Filipino, and Indonesian confreres. Recently, a Brazilian intern has come to join the mission, and a Chinese confrere is on his way, making our mission in Japan even more international. We are also proud that we have one Japanese confrere in our midst who retired in Japan after having been a missionary in the Philippines.

    The Congregation can be proud of the work of the confreres in Japan. One way the confreres came into contact with the student world was by teaching English or French in private or public schools. Quite often, they were able to teach culture, philosophy, and religion. All this contributed to the spread of Christian values. By starting kindergartens, they made contact with parents and children and instilled religious values at a very early age.

    In the 1950s, Father Jozef Spae was able to realize a long-cherished dream, the foundation of a study center. This was the beginning of the Oriens Institute for Religious Research, which would publish the Missionary Bulletin and look after other publications. In the years after Vatican II, Oriens played an essential role in bringing about the aggiornamento and deepening of the faith via writings and discussion groups, especially among the non-Japanese missionary priests and sisters. Oriens also promoted ecumenism and made first contacts with other religious traditions. While Oriens would limit itself to the missiological and pastoral aspect in its contact with other religions, the Nanzan Centre would concentrate on its academic level. In 1985, the Japan Missionary Bulletin, which until then was published partly in Japanese and partly in English, was split into the Japanese monthly magazine Fukuin Senkyo and the English three-monthly review The Japan Missionary Bulletin.

    Our impact goes beyond the dioceses where we are present. The publications of our Oriens Research Institute reach all the dioceses of Japan.  Over 75 years, we also have had several confreres who became professors in institutes of higher learning to reach out to the larger Japanese society.

    In 1972, Father Paul Schrurs established a center in Senri Town (vicinity of Osaka) to start with correspondence courses about Christian doctrine and Holy Scripture. Ten years later, he wrote: “Since the beginning, 20,000 people – two-thirds non-Christians and a third Christians – have followed this course. […] and about 500 have received baptism. In fact, this number may be higher…”

    From the beginning of the fifties, groups of the Jeunesse Ouvrière Chrétienne, the French name that was used in Japan for the Young Christian Workers, were started in various CICM parishes. Later, in the sixties, a center for workers was founded in Takasago, mainly due to the efforts of Father François Mouchet. Later, he started some new centers for the workers in the district of Sakai.

    Towards the end of the sixties, the appeal of traditional Western culture and Christianity started to diminish. The moment had come for the Japanese to take over the active and actual leadership of the evangelization of the country.

    Without a doubt, the confreres have worked hard to bring the Good News of our Lord Jesus Christ to the Japanese people. As an outsider, I am wondering why not more Japanese have become or are becoming Christian. What prevents them from becoming Christian? Is it a lack of inculturation? Maybe a confrere in cooperation with the Japanese should reflect on this complex issue and take some initial steps to give Christianity a more Japanese face.

    Several confreres have given a lot of their time to the study of Buddhism and Shinto. Remarkably, two confreres, Fr. Jan van Bragt and Fr. Jan Swyngedouw, were behind the foundation of the Center for the Study of Religion and Culture (Shubunken Center) at Nanzan University in Nagoya. This tradition should be continued. We should never tire of trying to enter into the heart and way of thinking of the people we live with. The study of culture and societies and personal encounters with people from other religious traditions are some of the priorities of our missionary involvement. After all, we are not purely parish priests in a foreign country.

    To be a missionary in Japan is very demanding. Consequently, the missionary needs a solid formation and spirituality, enabling him to take up the challenges of inculturation and interreligious dialogue. Only one who is attuned to the mystery within oneself will also be able to discern, experience, and feel the reverberations of the same mystery which is working in the others in their otherness. Hence, we need to familiarize ourselves with our own mystical traditions to be able to enter into the religious experience of other believers.

    The 13th CICM General Chapter emphasized that “an improved vowed religious life was necessary to reinforce our missionary spirituality and to realize better our missionary commitments and tasks. Thus, the 13th CICM General Chapter clearly established a link between our spiritual life and our missionary commitment. This means that a true missionary maintains a deep prayer life in community.”

    Developing further the basis of our religious missionary life, the 14th CICM General Chapter stressed that our incarnated CICM missionary spirituality has “to bring out the mystical and prophetic elements of our missionary spirituality.”

    The CICM mission in Japan has evolved over 75 years. I am sure God is not finished with us yet and that this mission will continue to develop and grow in the coming years. And God will continue to surprise us with his plans for us as he did for our presence in the Sendai Diocese. We must remain open to God’s plan for us in the coming years.

    Over the years, the CICM missionaries have become an integral part of the Catholic Church of Japan, supporting local communities and contributing to various aspects of Japanese society. As we celebrate 75 years of CICM missionary presence in Japan, let us look back with gratitude and look forward with trust and confidence that our mission in Japan is in God’s hands.

    Source : Chronica No 5 2023


    CICM Mongolia and the Visit of Pope Francis

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    Charles Phukutaby Charles Phukuta, cicm
    Superior General


    This is an article written by Charles Phukuta based on his interview with Vatican Radio in Ulaanbaatar during the visit of Pope Francis in Mongolia.

    What is the history of CICM Mongolia?

    The beginnings. The Mission of the Church entrusted to CICM in Mongolia can only be well understood if we take a closer look at the history of the Catholic Church in the country following the fall of communism. During the communist era, religion was banned, and for more than seven decades, all traces of religion were systematically eliminated. The Church could not be admitted to Mongolia.

    The outer Mongolia ‘‘Sui Iuris’’ mission was established on March 14 1922. In 1924, it became the Urga ‘‘Sui Iuris’’ mission and was entrusted to the CICM. Unfortunately, the instauration of a Soviet-like system made it impossible to start the mission.

    It was only after the Berlin wall came down and the Soviet Union came to an end that Mongolia adopted a new constitution and opted for freedom of religion in February 1992. One month later, the Holy Sea established Mongolia as a ‘‘Sui Iuris’’ mission. In April of the same year, diplomatic relations were established between the Vatican and Mongolia, as requested by this new democratic country. The then Papal Nuncio to Korea, Bishop Giovanni Bulaitis, was appointed nuncio to Mongolia.

    Then, the vineyard of the Lord was ready for the arrival of the first three CICM (Congregatio Immaculati Cordis Mariae) missionaries on July 10, 1992, following a bilateral agreement between the Holy See and Mongolia. It's important to note that CICM is present in Mongolia because the Holy See wanted it that way, rather than CICM decided to be the first religious congregation to arrive in the mission field. The mandate for the mission was received from the Vatican.The first group  comprised Wenceslao Padilla, 43, Gilbert Sales, 30, and Robert

    Goessens, 64. Pope Saint John Paul II appointed Bishop Wenceslao Padilla, cicm (may he rest in peace), as the first bishop of Mongolia. It's good to know that 9 of our confrères are continuingthe work begun in 1992 by the pioneers.

    Propagation of the Catholic Faith by CICM. It's fascinating how the first missionaries were able to pique the interest of locals who encountered them. The people who saw their work started asking questions and became  active in the Catholic Church. They were invited to participate in the Catholic Community's liturgy and activities, which helped them gain a deeper understanding of the faith. What's impressive is that in a non-Christian nation where aggressive

    evangelization is not possible, the missionaries and the baptized Catholics give witness to their faith primarily through their lives, their words, and deeds. It's interesting to know that doctrine classes began in 1994 when more Mongolians started attending liturgical services. There was a growing interest among them to learn more about the Catholic faith, resulting in a few people converting. In 1995, on Easter, 14 local people were accepted into the Catholic fold after completing a year of preparation. Subsequently, it has become a tradition to baptize small groups of Mongolians every Easter, and the total number of Mongolians received and baptized is gradually increasing.

    Faith Communities and places of worship. The Church's early years were quite nomadic (like the Mongolians themselves) as the location of liturgical celebrations kept changing to accommodate the size of the congregation. It shifted locations multiple times before finally settling on the second floor of the Catholic Church Mission Center. It was there that Saints Peter and Paul's Parish, the first parish in Mongolia, was officially established in 1996, before the construction of Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral. For a number of years, from 1996 to 2002, it was the only parish in the country.In the autumn of 2001, preparation of the grounds began for the church began. However, progress was slow due to the need for additional funding. It wasn't until August 2003 that the church, even though it was still unfinished at the time, was inaugurated by His Eminence Cardinal Sepe, H. E. Most Rev. Giovanni B. Morandini, Apostolic Nuncio for Korea and Mongolia, and H. E. Msgr. Wenceslao S. Padilla, newly consecrated bishop. It is now known as the Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral.

    In March 2003, another parish, the Good Shepherd Parish, was erected in the 10th Micro-District of Ulaanbaatar City. In doing so, we have established the first local ecclesial structures and fostered the emergence of the first Mongolian priest ordained in 2016.

    What are the works of CICM in Mongolia?

    Social work: Verbist Care Center (VCC). The CICM missionaries started working with the street children of Ulaanbaatar in 1994, visiting them where they usually congregate in the evenings, providing them with food and first aid, trying to get to know them, and learning about their conditions and problems. A shelter home for these children was opened in August 1995. Verbist Care Center for Street Children has now grown into a house for 120 street children, providing them with a home and education. Since its creation, some 1,700 children have benefited from our free care. This year, the home welcomes 46 children. This means that the level of poverty is gradually decreasing.

    Educational Apostolate. My Home Kindergarten (MHK), run by CICM, was started in Erdenet in 2002, catering to the poor children in Erdenet, the 3rd largest city of Mongolia, 385 km Northwest of Ulaanbaatar. MHK was established to assist underprivileged children whocould not attend public kindergartens due to financial constraints. Children from disadvantaged backgrounds are our primary focus. Our goal is to give them solid academic foundation and unlock their potential through the Montessori education system. Our project incorporates a feeding program, medical assistance, family awareness-raising, and a library to achieve the best possible outcomes.

    Antoon Mostaert Center (AMC). In 2003, a Center for Mongolian Studies was founded under the name Antoon Mostaert Center (AMC) to reach out to Mongolian intellectuals. At this Center, research is conducted in humanities and social sciences. AMC was established to pay tribute to Antoon Mostaert, cicm (1881-1971), and his unwavering commitment to protecting and disseminating Mongolian history, language, literature, religion, and culture through publications and conferences and providing a library of 11,000 books for the public. The Antoon Mostaert Centre was established by CICM almost two decades ago as a university-level academic institution specializing in social sciences and humanities. Its mission is threefold.

    1. To study and promote the work of Antoon MOSTAERT, cicm (1881-1971), our confrere and an eminent Mongolist who lived and worked in Inner Mongolia (China).

    2. To assist in the progress of Mongolian traditional studies by providing necessary support.

    3. To assist and develop students' research projects in particular.

    As a result of our efforts, a fourth goal has emerged indirectly: to assist  the Mongolian Catholic Church whenever expertise is needed.

    It’s impressive how the AM Center has mentored young researchers for almost twenty years, and over 250 becoming outstanding researchers, teachers and parents. The Center's fellowship program for M.A. degree candidates in Mongolian Studies has been ongoing since 2014, and their research is published annually. The program mainly focuses on teaching research methodologies to students studying social sciences, humanities, and other academics. This year, the Student Research Program saw 12 exceptional graduates, including three in literary studies, one in anthropology, three in archaeology, and five in linguistics.

    We have a core of 4 values that guide us in our work:

    • Respect for the Mongolian culture and tradition
    • Support for scholars and their creativity and scientific inquiry
    • Protection of academic freedom and adherence to research ethics
    • Maintenance of integrity and unity

    What does the Holy Father's visit represent?

    A source of spiritual joy and a sign of hope, faith, and charity. For some Mongolians and CICM, the visit of the Holy Father is a great privilege and a source of happiness. They appreciate Pope Francis' commitment to the peripheries and marginalized or neglected Catholics. It is heartening to see that the Pope is following through with his words, and many Catholics see it as a powerful expression of love. It's worth noting that if Pope Francis doesn't come to Mongolia, it's unlikely that another Roman pontiff will visit anytime soon, given the country's tiny Catholic population and lack of influence.

    A sign of brotherhood and peace. Receiving a visit from the head of state of the Vatican is a significant achievement for Mongolia's strategic positioning in Central Asia and the world. It is a testament to the country's political leaders, who have always been known for their tolerance, hospitality, and acceptance of diversity.

    Historians have attested that the Mongol Empire was known for being highly tolerant of diverse beliefs and customs in the societies it ruled. It is said that at the court of the Mongol Khans, leaders of various religions such as Buddhism, Islam, Christianity, Judaism, and Confucianism, as well as local shamans and healers, would convene and engage in discussions and exchange of ideas.

    CICM strongly believes that the visit of the Holy Father will pave the way for a deeper understanding and acceptance of the Catholic Church's diverse charisms, thereby preventing any possible misunderstandings. Moreover, it presents an opportunity to encourage the development of religious vocations, particularly those that address the local needs.

    Source : Chronica No. 5 Sept-Dec 2023

    A Right Missionary Attitude

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    Rex Salvillaby Rex Salvilla, cicm
    Vicar General


    This December marks my 38th year in priestly ministry. As I look back over my life as a CICM missionary, my formation in the seminary has equipped me with the right attitude to adapt and flourish in my mission should I be assigned anywhere. It didn't give me any specific skills. However, my training, particularly in theology, has taught me the importance of dialogue.

    Dialogue invites us to take our shoes off when we encounter another culture. It's about listening to the people we serve, struggling to understand them, learning to speak their language, eating their food and being immersed ourselves in their culture and traditions, harnessing local resources for our work, and engaging the local population in the mission. In other words, I learned the value of synodality in the seminary. Yes, I have learned this since more than 30 years ago.

    The seminary formation did not teach me about specific skill sets in running the administration of a parish, the nuances of running a school, or the dynamics of a social center. Rather, it taught me the right attitude of adapting to the landscape of where I am thrown. The seminary formation likewise did not teach me bookkeeping, accounting, or financial management. But it taught me the core values of responsibility, accountability, and honesty.

    As missionaries, we should know how to adapt to any situation with the right attitude and mindset. Fortunately for the younger generation of confreres, there are better infrastructures to help them plan their future work, better than what we had (or did not have).

    My first assignment in my mission in Hong Kong was being an assistant parish priest. I immediately realized that from Monday to Friday, there were few activities in the parish, and that idleness would be the immediate temptation. While I was still struggling with Cantonese, I decided to make my weekdays more fruitful by visiting the elderly and sick in apartments, older  people's homes and sometimes hospitals. My initiative was quickly noticed and well-appreciated by many parishioners.

    Then, two years later, I was assigned to a CICM parish as a parish priest. Not only was I the parish priest, but I also functioned as the supervisor of the kindergarten school and as the director of a social center at the same time. There, I learned various things that weren't taught in the formation - how to handle conflicts between employees and address the maintenance of the building, among other things. While I was doing all this, I was appointed Hong Kong District Treasurer. I had to learn and do some budgeting, bookkeeping, and reporting manually without the aid of the computer. Gradually, I also became part of the Management Committees of the six CICM schools. In those committees, I felt like an amateur making decisions for professionals  employed by the schools. 

    After nearly 14 years in the mission, I was recalled to the Philippines to become the Provincial Treasurer. I adjusted by reading all the relevant CICM documents on finances and slowly observing all the intricacies in the office. I took up MBA studies to gain knowledge about the financial world.

    Later, when I was 61 years old (perhaps already a seasoned missionary who is an expert in adjusting), I was assigned to be the President of the Maryhill School of Theology. My first reaction was, “Why me? I am not a theologian.” My intuition was correct. I had to put things in order, like employee-related matters and managing the upkeep of the physical plant, among others. 

    So here I am in the General Government – a new assignment, a new mandate, a new team, and a new environment.  As I was writing this, I was in Florence studying the Italian language. My profound gratitude to all the confreres who trusted us to take on this new responsibility. The chapter was an excellent time for revitalizing the Congregation. Capitulants took the discussions seriously. I am equipping myself for this six-year assignment by reading all the relevant CICM documents that will help us make correct, informed, and wise decisions. We will face challenges as they come. CICM formed me to have the right attitude of a missionary that our remarkable predecessors possessed.

    As I end this reflection, I humbly ask my dear confreres to offer their prayers for the General Government.

    Source : Chronica No. 5 Sept-Dec 2023